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Why the age of electric flight is finally on us



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EVA's nine-seat electric aircraft, Alice, was hit by the Paris Airshow
                

Aerospace firms are joining forces to tackle their industry's growing contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, with electric engines seen as one solution. But this will be enough to offset the growing demand for air travel

This week's Paris Airshow saw the launch of the world's first commercial all-electric passenger aircraft ̵

1; albeit in prototype form.

Israeli firm Eviation says the craft – called Alice – will carry nine passengers for up to 650 miles (1,040km) at 10,000ft (3,000m) at 440km / h. It is expected to enter service in 2022.

Alice is an unconventional-looking craft: powered by three push-facing pusher-propellers, one in the tail and two counter-rotation props at the wingtips to counter the effects of drag. It also has a flat lower fuselage to aid lift.

"This plane looks like this not because we wanted to build a cool plane, but because it's electric," says Emer's chief executive, Omer Bar-Yohay. we can have lightweight motors, it allows us to open the design space. "

E-mail has already received its first orders. US regional airline Cape Air, which operates a fleet of 90 aircraft, has agreed to buy a "double-digit" number of the aircraft.

Media caption can fly 600 miles on batteries alone

The company is using Siemens and magniX to provide the electric motors, and magniX chief executive Roei Ganzarski says that with two billion air tickets sold each year for flights of less than 500 miles, the business potential for Small electric passenger airplane is clear.

Crucially, electricity is much cheaper than conventional fuel.

A small aircraft, like a Cessna Caravan, will use $ 400 on conventional fuel for a 100-mile flight, says Mr Ganzarski. But with electricity, it will be between $ 8- $ 12, which means 60% -80% lower costs per flight-hour.

"We're not an environmentalist, the reason we're doing this is because makes business sense. " [19650019] Image copyright
Harbor Air

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Harbor Air is planning to turn its fleet of sea planes electric
                

            

MagniX is now working with the seaplane operator, Vancouver-based Harbor Air, to start converting their existing fleet to electric.

The future looks also reasonably bright when it comes to a medium-range flight – a range of up to about 1,500km.

Unlike Alice, aircraft targeting this range would use a mix of conventional and electric power, enabling them to significantly reduce CO2 emissions by switching on the electric component of their propulsion at key take-off and landing points.

Several demonstration projects are now nearing fruition. [19650019] Image copyright
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Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are co-operating on an electric-hybrid airplane called the E-Fan X
                

            

For example, Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Siemens are working on the E-Fan X program, which will have a two megawatt (2MW) electric motor mounted on a BAE 146 jet. It is set to fly in 2021.

"There are huge amounts of energy involved here, engineering is absolutely leading-edge and our investment in electrification is ramping up fast," says Paul Stein of Rolls-Royce's chief technology officer.

United Technologies, which includes Pratt & Whitney's engine maker in its portfolio, is working on its Project 804, and a hybrid electric demonstrator designed to test the 1MW engine and the sub-systems and components required.

The company says it should provide a minimum of 30% fuel savings. (196590019) Image copyright
United Technologies

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Is United Technologies' hybrid-electric demonstrator plane the shape of things to come?
                

            

Zunum Aero, backed by Boeing, uses a turbine engine from France's Safran to power an electric motor for a hybrid craft. And low-cost airline EasyJet is working with Wright Electric, saying it will start using electric aircraft in its regular services by 2027. This is likely to be on short-haul flights, such as London's Amsterdam to Europe's second busiest route [19659007] "It is a statement underscored by a report from the UBS investment bank which predicts aviation", says EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren.

the sector will quickly switch to hybrid and electric aircraft for regional travel, with an eventual demand for 550 hybrid airliners each year between 2028 and 2040.

While the electric

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Airbus' Grazia Vittadini says today's planes have 75% -80% more fuel-efficient than 50 years ago
                

            

Even assuming huge advances in battery technology, with batteries that are 30 times more efficient and "energy-dense" than they are today, it would only be possible to fly an A320 airliner for a fifth of its range with just half of its payload, says Airbus's chief technology officer Grazia Vittadini.

"Unless there is a radical shift in energy storage, we are going to rely on hydrocarbon fuels for the foreseeable future," says Greg Eremenko , United Technologies chief technician officer

The big problem with this is that 80% of the aviation industry's emissions come from passenger flights longer than 1,500km – but no UK airline could still fly

the first G7 country to accept the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – a huge challenge for the air travel business with 4.3 billion of us flying this year and eight billion expected to do so by 2037.

More Technology of Business [19659050] Regulators are also piling on the pressure.

In Europe, the European Aviation Safety Agency says it will start categorizing aircraft based on their CO2 emissions, while Norway and Sweden are aiming to make short-haul flights in their airspace electric by 2040.

So logically, is the

This obviously is not an appealing prospect for the industry. Rolls-Royce's Paul Stein says starkly that the world would be in a "dark place" if we stopped traveling.

He argues that in a global economy "where peaceful co-existence comes from traveling and understanding each other, if we move away from that I am very concerned that it's not the direction mankind should be going in." Technology of Business editor Matthew Wall on Twitter and Facebook


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